Why do so many Israel Police officers quit?

Since National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir took office, there has been a 15% drop in police resignations, but the institution is still rife with complaints of internal mistreatment.

 An illustrative image of an Israel Police officer. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
An illustrative image of an Israel Police officer.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Hundreds of Israel Police officers have left their jobs since January 2023, with 598 resigning, 109 being fired, and 420 retiring according to a freedom of information report submitted by Walla.

To put that figure into perspective, throughout all of 2022, a total of 1,050 police officers resigned, 750 retired, and 141 were fired. In 2021, 631 officers resigned. In 2020, just 321 resigned.

However, out of the 598 officers who resigned this year, some of them are students, but the vast majority of them (514) are full-time cops. Compared to 2022, this makes a 15% decline in the number of police officers resigning.

Why are so many Israel Police officers quitting?

Police have been noting a wave of departures over the past two years, which they have said is a side effect of COVID-19 and instability in the job market. According to this claim, the police aren't alone in seeing such large waves of resignations, with jobs in different sectors seeing people retire to try and find better work.

However, others say that the wave of police resignations also stems from a deep and disturbing phenomenon pervading the Israel Police: The mistreatment of officers by their commanders.

 Israel Police officers are seen at the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, on March 28, 2022. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Israel Police officers are seen at the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, on March 28, 2022. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

According to Ofer Ashkuri, former police officer and head of the Police and Wardens Forum, police leave their jobs due to poor treatment.

"Refusal to transfer police officers between districts and damage to their periodic evaluation causes officers to quit," he said.

He also cited two other reasons for leaving: Salary and the issue of police commanders' conduct and promotion.

"For the past two years, the Israel Police has tried to find a way to deal with this," Ashkuri said. "They set up work teams and even let the deputy head of the police Human Resources Division work on it.... but while it may have reduced the problem, it didn't improve and no fundamental changes were made."

Two years ago, a team was put together by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to find out how much this issue pervades the Israel Police. This team started their work in August 2021 before finishing at the end of that year.

As a result, a team was appointed under the authority of the deputy head of the police Human Resources Division, which then said that these complaints should be sent to the district attorneys.

It seems that during 2022, 87 complaints were filed against police officials of various ranks in 2022, according to data about the extent of complaints provided to Walla following a freedom of information request.

The Tel Aviv District led in terms of the number of complaints with 26. Next was the Southern District with 16 and then the Coastal District with nine.

"There are many more incidents of mistreatment than the official data shows," Ashkuri said. "However, many police officers are afraid to complain because they have lost faith in the system. There was hardly a single officer, in the police or Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), who ever received any significant punishment, if they were punished at all. This is true even though they may have been found abusing police or Israel Prison Service guards. This institution doesn't like criticism and commanders don't like being criticized, not in private conversations and not by subordinates who come to complain."

A veteran police officer told Walla that the abuse he went through has never left his head.

"I was an excellent police officer at all levels and received good marks in periodic evaluations over 30 years of service. But before I retired, a new officer arrived who already knew me and decided that I had no work ethic and was unprofessional and decided he wanted to appoint someone else to my position," he said.

"From there, I was thrown from my long-standing position at police headquarters to a city patrol cop. I've never been on patrol. I don't have the right certification for tasers, body cameras, or rifles. This was just to move me out of a good position to make room for his friend – and I was just over a year left until retirement," the officer continued.

"I started working on the patrol and felt humiliated. All the other officers felt sorry for me when I arrived at a situation and didn't know what to do. But at some point, they started writing false reports about me at the request of that officer. I filed a complaint against him for misconduct, and the complaint was accepted, but they just promoted him to a higher rank and position. It's disgusting how officers who don't deserve it are promoted and when they have friends, no one cares."

"Since the beginning of the year, 514 full-time police officers resigned compared to 607 last year," the police said in response. "Alongside this data, there has been a sharp rise in the number of officers who want to come back. Just recently, the police commissioner and the national security minister led a comprehensive reform for police salaries, along with grants for recruitment and the retention of existing manpower – and this is already showing results.

"In addition, the Israel Police recently launched a recruitment campaign that has so far managed to get 7,500 new recruits, who are currently being tested. We stress that the most important organizational resource that serves the public is humans. The nearly 32,000 men and women in the Israel Police work with dedication and year-round and the police command will continue to take care of the safety, needs, and well-being of all those serving."